Open Thread: Time Machine

(idea by Lonespark)

What would you do with a time machine?

[As a reminder, open thread prompts are meant to inspire conversation, not stifle it. Have no fear of going off topic for there is no off topic here.]

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10 thoughts on “Open Thread: Time Machine

  1. Firedrake June 7, 2015 at 3:05 am

    If the stories are any guide, destroy the universe by accident. (Time travel stories are usually like wish stories: they’re there to say “you should not have this power”.)

    It really depends on the setup. Do I have to worry about keeping my original timeline vaguely recognisable, so I’m limited to relatively minor changes? In which case there are some lives I’d like to save. Or can I remake civilisation from scratch, as many times as I like until I get it right?

  2. genesistrine June 7, 2015 at 3:38 am

    Maybe the first question to ask is “would you go forward or back first?”

  3. lonespark42 June 7, 2015 at 8:38 am

    I suggested this because for once I think I know. I would enroll my children in a different elementary school. One that actually gives them the free breakfast they would get if the school had a program. One that is used to accepting kids from single parent households where the parent and other adults in the child’s life may not be modeling satisfactory executive functioning. And one with a great deal more racial,l and ethnic, and economic diversity.

    I feel like that wouldn’t be enough change to destroy the world. I recognize that it could alter my timeline in substantial and possibly destructive ways…

    Ideally, selves from different timelines could email or Skype or something to figure out the best solutions. Someone write that science fiction story, please?

  4. lonespark42 June 7, 2015 at 8:43 am

    I really never thought of going forward. In general I don’t think about the future being anything that exists in any vaguely fixed way. There is past, there is now, and there is becoming.

    That’s a Heathen thing, for some of us anyway, and yet, we have tales of Allfather and others learning What Shall Be, and acting on that…Yet there’s no particular indication that their actions change it. Maybe a little? Delay the end, minimize certain losses… but never truly alter the narrative.

  5. lonespark42 June 7, 2015 at 8:50 am

    I feel like that relates a little to an idea chris mentioned at Ana Mardoll’s Ramblings: refusing to prevent the apocalypse because that would mean killing a lot of pre-emptive murder.

    What with our corporality and our confinement within linear (and cyclical) time, we can’t know how our actions rearrange the threads of life/fate/doom. But we can always choose to do the most right thing. Means are ends. (Insert LOTR quotes here.)

    I guess this all means I’m not comfortable with the idea of time travel or foresight as a technical question. If I’m going to engage with it at all, there needs to be a lot of ethics and probably a fair amount of spirituality. I do love alternate histories, though. My ambivalence is passionate on this subject and many others.

  6. lonespark42 June 7, 2015 at 8:51 am

    Gah, editing fail.
    “…refusing to prevent the apocalypse because that would mean a lot of pre-emptive murder.” That’s what I meant.

  7. alexseanchai June 7, 2015 at 10:49 am

    There are so, so, SO many books I would like to rescue from destructive events such as the loss of the Library of Alexandria. The complete works of Sappho, to name only one.

  8. christhecynic June 7, 2015 at 11:03 am

    There are so, so, SO many books I would like to rescue from destructive events such as the loss of the Library of Alexandria. The complete works of Sappho, to name only one.

    The complete works of Sappho is first on my list.

    I would do research, I would do preservation. I’d be too worried about the possible destructive nature of intervention to try to change things, but books, languages, oral traditions, art, everything would be somehow recorded and preserved.

    Basically, I wouldn’t try to change history, I’d try to save it.

    “All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain,” doesn’t have to be true given adequate time travel and recording technology.

    I tend to assume that traveling into the future would involve going into a timeline where you ceased to exist when you left your own time, which means that if you’re planning on coming back you’re planning on destroying the world that you created and visited. That doesn’t seem all that appealing to me.

  9. depizan June 7, 2015 at 11:39 am

    I would probably use it for something small and selfish, like seeing concerts (non-sold-out, of course) of singers I never got a chance to see while they were alive. Go see Stan Rogers. Go see John Denver.

    Maybe, though it’s riskier, go back to just say “I love your books” to authors I didn’t get to meet.

  10. genesistrine June 7, 2015 at 4:57 pm

    My problem is I immediately want to know what the parameters are. Am I the only person with a time machine? Is automatic translation provided too? How difficult is it to change the past? Is it one of those Butterfly Effect things where me breathing out where no-one originally breathed out at that point in spacetime changes the entire climate pattern and kills off the entire population of Europe? Or might I wipe everyone out with the sniffle I got from some guy on the bus instead?

    If I wasn’t the only one I’d probably leave Alexandria to the Ancient Greek-speakers with asbestos suits and maybe see what was really going on in megalithic times; the really unknown preliterate cultures. Though of course a) sniffles and b) language issues.

    But I’m also tempted to hop forward, and keep hopping forward, just to see what happens. The universe in fast-forward….

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